top of page

At Foaling

Foaling frequently occurs during the early morning hours. Farm personnel should be observant and call a veterinarian for assistance if a problem arises. Intervention by the owner or farm personnel may be necessary and the level of intervention depends on the handler’s experience. Too much intervention during a normal foaling could be detrimental to the mare and foal. It is important to understand the normal turn of events so you can recognize any problems early on. Foaling is divided into 3 stages. During the first stage, the mare will have uterine contractions that will position the foal and move it toward the birth canal. This stage lasts between 1 to 2 hours and sometimes may go unnoticed by the observer. The fetal membranes will be visible and the sac breaks initiating the second stage. The mare starts delivering the foal during the second stage. If the mare does not progress delivering the foal during this second stage, or if the delivery lasts more than 30 minutes, then you must call your veterinarian. Should you suspect that the position of the foal is abnormal, such as hoof soles in the upward position or only seeing one front leg at delivery, you need to immediately call your veterinarian. After the delivery of the foal, the third stage of labor begins. During this stage, the placenta will be expelled. Expulsion of the placenta may take up to 3 hours. Any delay beyond this point is a concern. Another worry is a Redbag delivery. A Redbag may occur during foaling, when the placenta separates from the uterus prematurely and the oxygen supply of the foal is compromised. During the course of a Redbag delivery, the mare starts foaling with the intact bright red placenta attached to the foal and covering the foal's airways. If the mare is presented with a Redbag at foaling, then direct intervention is necessary. The foal may die from asphyxiation if the placenta is not broken on time and if the foal is not delivered immediately. However, some foals may look normal for the first 12 to 24 hours only to turn into dummy foals 36 hours post-foaling. Redbag foals should always be examined by a veterinarian. It is not recommended to cut the umbilical cord with scissors since it can cause excessive bleeding of the umbilical stump. The umbilical cord can be left alone or separated manually by holding it firmly with 2 hands and twisting and pulling on it, so that it breaks about one inch from the foal's abdomen. After the umbilical cord is ruptured, the blood vessels will shrink and it should stop bleeding by itself. Tying the cord is not recommended. By tying the cord you may prevent the natural closure of the blood vessels and predispose the umbilical stump to infection. Assuming a normal foal delivery and everything appearing normal, allow the mare and the foal time to bond alone.

bottom of page